For nearly a year, COVID-19 has been ravaging our friends, family, and neighbors. By now, we all know someone who has been hospitalized due to COVID-19. But many of us may not know what to expect when hospital staff admit our loved ones. Obviously, being by their side as they fight for their lives is out of the question. Many of us have heard or read the stories about the last video chat before a loved one succumbs to the virus. 

Thankfully, the folks over at Penn Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania have put together a handy checklist of what you should do if your loved one is hospitalized. 

“Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, to protect you, your loved one, hospital staff, and the public, you will not be able to visit your loved one in the hospital,” they write on their website. “We want to make sure you can stay connected and engaged during this time with an admitted patient.” 

Admission

Confirm: the legally authorized health care representative (medical or health care power of attorney)

This is the person who makes decisions when a person cannot speak for themselves. Give the person’s name and phone number(s) to the hospital team.

Discuss: the primary family contact

Hospital staff can only give out information to family members with the patient’s permission. Choose one person who will talk to the hospital team during the stay. They recommend that you pick someone who is the legally authorized health care representative. That person can then share the information with your loved one’s family and community. Give the name and phone number(s) for a back-up person. 

Give: a copy of your loved one’s advance directive/living will if they completed one

You can also mail or drop off later if you don’t have it at the time of admission.

How: preference from the team

Let the hospital team know what kind of technology the primary family contact has at home. Does that person have a smartphone (like an iPhone or Android), tablet (like an iPad or Chromebook), or computer with a camera and internet? 

Plan: How you and your loved one will stay in touch while you are apart 

You can use their bedside phone number at the hospital. If your loved one has a smartphone, tablet, or laptop computer, you may leave it with them. Be sure the device is labeled with their name and provide a charger cord labeled with their name. Find out if the hospital team can connect your loved one’s smartphone, tablet, or computer to their free hospital internet, and help them to keep in touch via video chat.

If you don’t have access to the internet, Comcast Internet Essentials offers affordable internet to eligible households. Direct any questions or support needs to Comcast or call: 800-934-6489

Hospital Stay

  • Keep a diary or journal
  • Write down the names of your hospital team members to keep things clear, also the name and phone number for your loved one’s hospital ward, as well as questions for the hospital team so that you can ask them all at once. 
  • You may choose to write down your thoughts and feelings to share with your loved one.
  • DO NOT send food or flowers. The hospital team may not be able to deliver cards and other items during this time.
  • Reach out to your community outside of the hospital so that you don’t feel as alone during this hard time. Many faith leaders and community organizations are able to connect to you by phone. Contact the hospital’s pastoral care support team. These individuals are not just for spiritual support, but also work closely with the hospital team to be sure you are feeling supported at home. Call the hospital operator and ask for the “chaplain on call.”
  • Make a plan to update family and friends. Find out if your hospital offers a way for family and friends to leave messages of support during the hospital stay.

Admitted

  • Find out the name of the hospital ward where your loved one is staying.
  • Keep a phone number of ward handy for concerned family and friends.
  • Ask for your loved one’s bedside phone number.
  • Get to know the hospital team working with your loved one.

Christian McPhate

Christian has been working as a freelance journalist in North Texas for more than a decade. His stories have appeared in the Dallas Observer, the Houston Press, and Rolling Stone magazine. He covers a...